Generating sexually differentiated vocal patterns: laryngeal nerve and EMG recordings from vocalizing male and female african clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis). Academic Article uri icon


  • Male and female African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) produce sexually dimorphic vocalizations; for males these include advertisement, amplectant, and growling calls, whereas female calls include ticking. Previous studies have shown that the vocal organ, the larynx, of the sexes differs in physiological properties that parallel vocal differences. However, it was not clear whether these characteristics are sufficient to explain sex differences in vocal behavior. To examine the contribution of the CNS to generating vocal patterns, we developed a preparation in which both laryngeal nerve activity and electromyograms can be recorded from awake, vocalizing frogs. Recordings reveal that the CNS of the two sexes produces patterned activity that closely matches each vocalization whereas the larynx faithfully translates nerve activity into sound. Thus, the CNS is the source of sexually differentiated vocalizations in Xenopus laevis. Furthermore, detailed analyses of compound action potentials recorded from the nerve lead us to hypothesize that neuronal activity underlying different male call types is distinct; some calls are likely to be generated by synchronous firing of motoneuron populations of either constant size or progressively larger sizes, whereas others are generated by asynchronous activity of motoneurons, a pattern shared with vocal production in females. We suggest that these distinct neuronal activity patterns in males may be subserved by two populations of motor units in males that can be distinguished by the strength of the neuromuscular synapse.

publication date

  • February 15, 2000